Every Pony Clubber’s dream: British teenager goes from mini-major to five-star entry at London Horse Show

  • Two British riders have received a late-call up to compete in the CSI5* showjumping classes at the London International Horse Show at ExCeL London this week (16-20 December) – 19-year-old Lily Attwood and the former Egyptian rider Sameh El Dahan.

    Seven years ago, 12-year-old Lily was representing the Tanatside Hunt branch of the Pony Club in the mini-major class at the show, then held at Olympia, where she was teamed up with pro rider Guy Williams.

    But fast-forward seven years and this teenage showjumping sensation is about to make her debut in the five-star classes at the London International Horse Show, under the tutelage of her trainer… Guy Williams.

    It’s the fairy tale that every young Pony Clubber dreams of coming true.

    “I remember, even before I jumped in the mini-major, watching the 12.2s at Olympia and thinking just to jump in that class would be amazing;” Lily told H&H. “So it’s quite cool to be doing the five-star now!”

    Her Olympia debut came in 2014 riding the 12.2hh Kitty (pictured below).

    “I actually fell off!” she said. “She was just a naughty 12.2hh. Hopefully that won’t happen again, though.”

    Lily Attwood competing in the mini major at London Horse Show, Olympia, in 2014

    Lily only received the call-up to the CSI5* classes at this year’s London Horse Show at ExCeL London after a late withdrawal meant she moved up the waiting list — Sameh El Dahan, who recently switched nationalities to adopt the British flag, is another rider to have benefited and will make his debut in front of his new home crowd.

    Lily had only jumped at her first five-star show at La Coruna, Spain, the week before, where she produced an impressive four-fault performance in her first World Cup qualifier with the 11-year-old Cor-Leon VD Vlierbeek Z.

    “Leon has only just stepped up as well, so it was new for both of us,” she said. “He was seventh the first day in a 1.55m then had just one down in the World Cup, so I was really pleased because it was difficult.

    “You don’t realise just how much of a step up it is from four-star to five-star level. It’s like a whole different sport. The margins are so small — one tiny mistake which might not make a difference at a lower level, really does at that level. But that definitely would have given me a huge confidence boost going into London.”

    All this comes barely a month after she broke her collarbone in a fall in Vilamoura, Portugal.

    “It happened four weeks before La Coruna and I got a late call-up for that show too — the week before,” she said. “I couldn’t say no! So it was quite soon but the collarbone felt fine; it wasn’t painful at all.”

    Lily brings her two top horses to London Horse Show — Leon and the British-bred mare Calvaro’s Up To Date — and she will be joined by her trainer and mentor, Guy Williams, plus a host of other showjumping stars.

    “I’m so pleased – it was one of my aims this year, so I’m really glad to be going,” she said.

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